Tag Archives: London

Ridley Road Review

Hate, in all of its forms, is always around us. It is an unfortunate part of the human experience. Despite our advances in science, medicine, education, and technology, it remains ever-present.

The new Masterpiece series, Ridley Road (based on the book of the same name by Jo Bloom) premiered last weekend. The heroine of the series, Vivian Epstein (Agnes O’Casey) is the daughter of a Jewish family in England in the early 1960s. She is expected to live as her mother and grandmothers did before her: give up her job, marry the boy chosen for her, and take care of her husband and children. But Vivian wants to be more than a housewife and mother.

She follows her boyfriend Jack Morris (Tom Varey) to London. Jack is a part of the 62 group, an underground Jewish organization who are fighting against the growing fascism in the UK. Going undercover as a member of the neo-nazi group led by Colin Jordan (Rory Kinnear), both Vivian and Jack play a dangerous game of going along with their new identities while trying to keep their relationship alive.

I am absolutely loving this series so far. It’s James Bond meets a love story with a feminist coming of age narrative and a background of combating prejudice. What makes the program for me is that our heroes are ordinary people. It is, I think a reminder that change does not always come from the top. It comes from the person on the street who sees a wrong and does what they can to right that wrong.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Ridley Road airs on PBS on Sunday night at 9PM EST.

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Filed under Feminism, History, Judaism, Television, TV Review

The Duke Movie Review

We all want to make the world a better place, in one way or another. The question is how we go about it.

The new movie, The Duke, is based on the true story of the theft of the Portrait of the Duke of Wellington by Francisco Goya in London in 1961. The accused thief is Kempton Bunton (Jim Broadbent), a do-gooder/dreamer with Robin Hood ideals. The problem is that his head is in the clouds and unable to hold down a job for any reasonable length of time. This forces his wife, Dorothy (Helen Mirren) to keep the family financially afloat by cleaning Mrs. Gowling’s (Anna Maxwell Martin) house.

While Kempton teases the police by sending clues, he offers to return the painting on the condition that the government will take greater care of its elderly citizens. When he finally returns the portrait and has his day in court, the trial becomes much more than it was expected to be.

I love this movie. Broadbent and Mirren are at the top of their game. What makes this film special is that it is a reminder that one person can change the world, even if they don’t have the logistics quite down. It has humor, it has heart, and it is simply a good reason to go to the theater.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

The Duke is currently in theaters.

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Moon Knight Review

The ancient world has always been fascinating. The mixture of mythology, history, and curiosity about life back then has piqued the interest of modern people for centuries.

The new MCU/DisneyPlus series, Moon Knight, premiered last Wednesday. Steven Grant/Marc Spector (Oscar Isaac) is a former member of the US Marines. Living in London and working at a museum gift shop, Steven/Marc has a figurative weight attached to his ankle via dissociative identity disorder. Blacking out and then having vivid dreams of another life, he encounters Arthur Harrow (Ethan Hawke). Arthur is an enemy from one of Steven/Marc’s other life. To say that he is dangerous is an understatement.

He soon finds out that he has the powers of an Egyptian Mood G-d. Though the powers appear to be a windfall, there is a downside that he quickly discovers.

I walked into this series completely blind. This is the first time I’ve heard of Moon Knight. Knowing nothing about what I was about to watch was a good thing. I had no expectations, therefore I cannot be disappointed by any changes that have been made from the original text.

I liked the inclusion of mental illness. It is one more step away from stigma and one step closer to acceptance. My problem is that I was confused. Maybe it’s the plot or maybe it’s because I am totally new to this world. Either way, the jumping back and forth was a bit confusing. What did make me want to at least watch the next episode was when he turned into his superhero alter-ego.

Do I recommend it? I am leaning toward yes.

Moon Knight is available streaming on DisneyPlus.

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Filed under DisneyPlus, Mental Health, Television, TV Review

Flashback Friday: Dickensian (2015-2016)

Good writing has a way of setting the reader/audience’s imagination on fire as few things can.

The television series, Dickensian (2015-2016) takes the characters from within the individual books of Charles Dickens and weaves their lives together in 19th century London. Starring Tuppence Middleton, Stephen Rea, Alexandra Moen, and Tom Weston-Jones, the series asks the viewer to believe that all of these people know each other and interact as they go about their business.

The premise is certainly interesting. The cast is nothing short of top-notch. I’m not a huge fan of Dickens, but I can see where the spark of the idea came from. The problem is that the spark dies quickly. I stopped watching after a few minutes, left with a bitter taste of a narrative promise that was not kept.

Do I recommend it? No.

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Filed under Books, Flashback Friday, Television, TV Review

Mansfield Park Character Review: Maria Bertram

*The schedule for the Character Review posts will be changing to Friday (or Saturday at the latest from now on).

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the novel Mansfield Park. Read at your own risk if you have not read the book or watched any of the adaptations. There is something to be said about a well-written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front of us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.

For most of human history, a woman’s choice has been marriage, and uh, marriage. If she was lucky, she received a basic education or was taught in the style that was “appropriate” for a lady. This idea was especially persistent among the upper classes. From an early age, girls were prepared for the day when they would no longer be a Miss and become a Mrs. On the surface, this life seems relatively simple. But upon deeper reading, it is easy to see how frustrating these constraints could be.

In Mansfield Park, Maria Bertram is fully aware of what her future holds. The eldest daughter and third child of Sir Thomas and Lady Bertram, she enjoys the perks of status, wealth, and beauty. Behind closed doors is another story. Both of her parents are emotionally distant from their children. Her father is all about business. Her mother prefers to spend more time with her dog than her offspring. The only adult in the room is her aunt, Mrs. Norris. But Mrs. Norris is not there to pick up the pieces left behind by her sister and brother-in-law. Selfish and self-gratifying, she indulges her sister’s kids in hopes of getting a piece of the pie.

Of all of the young men in the area, Maria’s choice of future husband is Mr. Rushworth. His appeal is his fortune and the escape she will have from an unhappy household. Willing to overlook the fact that he is both stupid and physically unattractive, it is the out she is looking for. Shortly after accepting Mr. Rushworth’s proposal, the brother and sister duo of Mary and Henry Crawford joins the Bertram’s social circle. Both are charming, intelligent, and the life of the party. Knowing full well that her marriage is one of convenience, Maria has no problem flirting with Henry. She also ignores that he is also flirting with her younger sister, Julia.

Expecting a proposal from Henry, she is disappointed that he does not act on their flirtation. This leads her to marry her fiance and take Julia with them on her honeymoon. Upon starting her new life as Mrs. Rushworth in London, Henry comes back and picks up right where they left off. This leads to an affair, a failed elopement, and being excised from polite society due to her status as a divorcee who left her husband for another man.

To sum it up: The choices we make define how we live our lives. Even when those choices are limited, the actions we take have an impact. Maria could have ended her engagement to Mr. Rushworth, which might have opened the door to a respectable life and a happy marriage. But she chose another path, leading to disgrace and humiliation.

Which is why she is a memorable character.

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Filed under Books, Character Review, Feminism, Jane Austen, Mansfield Park

Once We Were Slaves: The Extraordinary Journey of a Multi-Racial Jewish Family Book Review

The Passover story and the Exodus of the Hebrews from slavery to freedom is a potent one. In one way or another, we can all relate to the idea of breaking free from whatever is holding us back.

Laura Arnold Leibman‘s new book, Once We Were Slaves: The Extraordinary Journey of a Multi-Racial Jewish Family was published back in August. The book traces the ancestry of Blanche Moses. Moses, whose Jewish-American ancestry goes back to the Revolutionary War, tells the story of her biracial ancestors. Both Jewish (mostly Sephardic with a handful of Ashkenazi) and black, her ancestors had to navigate a world in which they could be doubly ostracized while passing as Caucasian. Living in such different places as New York City, London, and the West Indies, it was akin to a game of chess, in which every move must be calculated before proceeding.

I wanted to like this book. The subject is one that is certainly of interest to me. The problem is that it is slow to read and void of the excitement that I should have had while answering the question that the book asks. While I appreciated this deep dive into a part of Jewish history that is not always in the spotlight, the promises laid out by the author are not met.

Do I recommend it? Not really.

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Filed under Book Review, Books, History, New York City

Flashback Friday: The Mummy Returns (2001)

The purpose of a sequel is to take the narrative of one IP and then build on it by adding additional characters and stories. While this task may seem simple, the reality is that it is complicated. Especially when its predecessor is well regarded.

The Mummy Returns (2001) takes place after The Mummy (1999) and before The Scorpion King (2002) and. Rick O’Connell (Brendan Fraser) and Evelyn Carnahan (Rachel Weisz) are now happily married and living in London with their son. They are still in the archeology game and believe that Imhotep (Arnold Vosloo) will never enter their lives again. But when an artifact emerges and Imhotep’s remains arrive in the city, they will again have to send him back to the world of the dead.

I appreciate the addition of a precocious, troublemaking child, Evelyn’s growth as more than a damsel in distress, and the backstory set in ancient Egypt. It adds depth, allowing the audience to see Imhotep as more than just a generic villain. But my main problem is that Evelyn still needs Rick to rescue her, even when she claims to have learned some form of self-defense.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

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Filed under Feminism, Flashback Friday, Movie Review, Movies

The Heiress: The Revelations of Anne de Bourgh Book Review

One of the great things about fanfiction is that the writer has the opportunity to shine the spotlight on characters who the reader knows very little about in the original text.

The Heiress: The Revelations of Anne de Bourgh by Molly Greeley, was published at the beginning of the year. The novel focuses on Anne de Bourgh. In Pride and Prejudice, Anne is the daughter of Lady Catherine de Bourgh and the cousin of Fitzwilliam Darcy. Supposedly sick from birth and engaged to her cousin, she fades into the background without the audience truly knowing who she is as a person.

The Anne we are introduced to in Greeley’s novel is not the quiet, retiring character that exists in Austen cannon. She is vivid, intelligent, and curious. But because her imperious mother continues to believe that her daughter is unwell, she is prevented from the experiences that she would have had otherwise. Finally gathering enough nerve to break with Lady Catherine, Anne flees to London, where is she welcomed by her cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam.

When Anne’s strength has recovered, she begins to see what life can truly offer. But being that she has been locked away from society her entire life, she is unprepared for the not so polite underbelly of the season. This includes love with a person that she could have never expected. Anne must not only contend with forbidden romance, but with her mother, who is still determined to rein her daughter in.

I loved this book. This is how fanfiction is done. The balance between what the reader knows about Anne de Bourgh and where Greeley goes with the character is fantastic. I loved the LGBTQ twist that she adds, elevating what could be a predictable narrative into a story that the reader does not see coming.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

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Filed under Book Review, Books, Fanfiction, Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

Cruella Movie Review

The question of nature vs. nurture is a tempting one to ask. Does our upbringing dictate who we are and what we believe? Or is it our perception of ourselves and the world around us?

Cruella was released yesterday on DisneyPlus. Estella/Cruella De Vil (played by Tipper Seifert-Cleveland as a child and Emma Stone as an adult) has been a rebel and an outcast since she was young. Raised by her single mother, she is left parentless at 12. Arriving in London with only her dog as a companion, she finds family in the form of thieves Horace (Paul Walter Hauser) and Jasper (Joel Fry). Ten years later, they have become a trio.

But Estella wants more out of life than petty thievery. She wants to be a fashion designer. Fate sends her the opportunity she is praying via the Baroness (Emma Thompson). The Baroness is the queen of the English fashion scene. She is also self centered and selfish. What starts out as a door opening to the job of her dreams turns Estella/Cruella into a version of the person she wants to destroy. The question is, can our heroine keep up with the image she has created while being true to herself or will she sell her soul in the process?

Cruella is one of the best films of 2021. It is so much fun to watch. The music (classic 1960’s and 1970’s tunes) is perfectly chosen. Both leading ladies are at the top of their game. The introduction to Thompson’s character is only bested by Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep) in The Devil Wears Prada.

What I loved is that this movie it proves that a female led movie does not require a romantic narrative to be successful. There are male characters who have a significant role in the narrative, but their relationships with the Baroness and Estella/Cruella are of a professional and/or plutonic nature.

Among the Disney prequels that have come out as of late, this is the best one. Though there is the argument of an easy cash grab, there are more than enough Easter eggs to keep fans of the original film happy. Expanded beyond the original narrative, it is a loving homage to its predecessor while standing on its own two feet.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Cruella is available for streaming on DisneyPlus.

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Filed under DisneyPlus, Feminism, Movie Review, Movies, Music

Mary Poppins Returns Movie Review

The 1964 film, Mary Poppins is an unadulterated classic. Starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke, the film (based on the books by P.L. Travers) has entertained multiple generations of fans.

The new film, Mary Poppins Returns, opened yesterday.

The sequel takes place in Depression era London. Jane and Michael Banks (Emily Mortimer and Ben Whishaw) are now grown. Jane is single and works in the labor movement. Michael followed in his late father’s footsteps and works for the same bank that his father did. But life is not all that they hoped it would be. Michael is a recent widower with three young children. After the death of his wife, his financial issues started to become a problem. Then Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt) returns to their lives. With the help of Jack (Lin-Manuel Miranda), Mary is more than a nanny to the newest generation of Banks children. Can Mary help them heal as a family and survive their troubles?

All I can say about this film is wow. It is fantastic. Emily Blunt’s performance as Mary Poppins is seamless and absolute perfection. While she pays homage to her predecessor, Blunt makes this character her own. For his part, Lin-Manuel Miranda is the perfect counterpart to Emily Blunt. His accent is also, well, a lot less questionable than Dick Van Dyke’s.

My favorite aspect of this film is that it appealed to both adults and children. It also has a message about resilience in the face of adversity and tragedy. There are also plenty of Easter eggs to please fans of the original film.

I absolutely recommend it.

Mary Poppins Returns is presently in theaters. 

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Filed under History, Movie Review, Movies